Watched Apr 04, 2012
Geir Friestad’s review:
Cameron Crowe's latest movie comes with a lot of critical derision attached, to the extent that it's probably impossible to come to it with a completely blank slate. Apparently, it's sappy, it's sugary fluff, it's a mawkish disappointment, and so on. All of it true to a point, but as Mark Kermode likes to say – other opinions are available.
The basic foundation is very much the same as that of The Descendants – it's a story about tackling grief, about a family dealing with the loss of the mother. The follow-through differs quite a bit though. Where Alexander Payne opted for a typically bittersweet tone, Crowe dials up the sentimentality and aims straight for the heart strings instead, and this is where he loses a lot of his audience. Its serious subject aside, We Bought a Zoo is the cinematic equivalent of browsing cuteoverload.com – it's all sunshine and fluffy animals – and that simply doesn't go down well for everyone. It's just too much. Personally, I enjoyed it.
I liked the animals, I liked the cinematography, I liked the music, I liked the cast – Scarlett Johansson, luminous as ever, and a seemingly permanently ecstatic Elle Fanning were the standouts – and I liked the light tone. What I wished was better, is the story, which is essentially a flat line. There are hardly any convincing conflicts to speak of (there's a half-hearted attempt at setting up a zoo inspector as a bad guy, but we all know that he'll come around in the end), making the movie less interesting than it could have been. Ultimately though, the cast (both human and animal) is such great company that I couldn't help being swept along, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a good time. I didn't love it, I wasn't particularly moved by it, but I did enjoy it.
Your mileage, as they say, may vary.